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Parkinson's disease makes it harder to figure out how other people feel
Date:3/3/2010

WASHINGTON Scientists are beginning to find out why people with Parkinson's disease often feel socially awkward. Parkinson's patients find it harder to recognize expressions of emotion in other people's faces and voices, report two studies published by the American Psychological Association.

One of the studies raises questions about how deep brain stimulation, the best available treatment for patients who no longer respond to medication, more strongly affects the recognition of fear and sadness. A neurodegenerative disorder, Parkinson's causes tremors, stiffness and balance problems, as well as fairly frequent depression and dementia.

In the March issue of Neuropsychology, Heather Gray, PhD, and Linda Tickle-Degnen, PhD, report that people with Parkinson's disease, compared with matched controls, often have difficulty discerning how others are feeling.

Their meta-analysis of 34 different studies using data from 1,295 participants shows a robust link between Parkinson's and specific deficits in recognizing emotions, especially negative emotions, across different types of stimuli and tasks.

The meta-analysis, conducted at Harvard Medical School and Tufts University, found that patients typically had some degree of problem identifying emotion from faces and voices.

Further clarification is provided in a second study that showed that deep-brain stimulation, compared with medication, caused a consistently large deficit in the recognition of fear and sadness two key facial expressions that, when understood, aid survival. That study is published in the January issue of Neuropsychology.

Researchers led by Julie Pron, PhD, at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Rennes in France, compared the ability of people with Parkinson's in three different groups to recognize facial emotions: 24 advanced patients implanted with deep-brain stimulators after they didn't respond or were sensitive to oral levod
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Contact: Public Affairs Office
public.affairs@apa.org
202-336-5700
American Psychological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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